You’ll find Effingham Golf Club located between Leatherhead and Guildford, in the heart of the North Downs. Laid across free-draining downland, this unsung Harry Colt-designed course occupies a generous 264-acre site from where there are panoramic views of the London skyline and the chalky escarpment of the Chiltern Hills.
Routed in two distinct nine-hole loops, the course measures a respectable 6,800 yards from the back (black tee) markers, but even the white tee yardage (6,597 yards) tested many top golfers when Open Championship Regional Qualifying was held at Effingham Golf Club from 2006 to 2010.
Effingham is a course fashioned in the spirit of the Golden Age, but the club is not resting on its laurels, having engaged the services of Tom Mackenzie of Mackenzie and Ebert, to ensure this classic design is not only true to its Harry Colt roots, but also a modern day challenge. In 2013, a new 451-yard par four home hole was unveiled along with a redesigned green at the par four 5th.
Tom Mackenzie mentioned: “Effingham is another example of Harry Colt’s skills at laying out holes on hilly ground in a way that golfers find themselves at the top of the Downs without feeling like they have played an uphill hole. The downland turf also makes it a true 12-month of the year course.”
Fairway bunkers have been removed with additional bunkers constructed to affect the longer players. New bunkers have been created to heighten the challenge around the putting surfaces, with redesigned greens introduced at the par four 5th and newly extended 18th, which has been extended to 451 yards from the back tees.
Mature trees line many fairways and they are always dazzling in their glorious autumn colours, but they were not so abundant in Harry Colt’s day. However, rarely do these woody obstacles obstruct the line of play and the club has embarked on a bold woodland management programme to protect the integrity of the putting surfaces.
With many strong holes at Effingham it’s hard to single one out, but we like the tough one-shot 7th that’s ringed with bunkers. With out-of-bounds on the left and a tricky-to-find green, it’s a hole where a three marked on the card will be savoured. Don’t forget to enjoy the far-reaching views of the Chiltern Hills before leaving the tee.
There is so much to enjoy at Effingham with its excellent drainage, firm and fast surfaces, rolling topography and pleasant short walks between greens and tees. The elegant Georgian clubhouse also provides the warmest of welcomes.
With recent renovation work now completed, Effingham Golf Club has been selected by England Golf to host the Senior Men’s County Championship Finals in 2019.
Played here for the first time on Monday of this week in the clubs Seniors Open. The course was beautifully presented, the recent dry spell having its effect on the fairways and rough, but the greens and teeing areas were absolutely immaculate. A really good mix of holes, I particularly loved the par 3 7th, one of the finest par 3's I have played anywhere. Bunkering was good, with some cleverly placed traps, certainly a practice round wouldn't have gone astray! I couldn't really fault the course at all. The reception we received was very good by everybody concerned, and the food afterwards was top drawer. I have already put my name down for next years event, and will be visiting again before then. Thoroughly enjoyable.
One of the courses that has always been on my ‘Must Play’ list is Effingham. I have always been intrigued by the statement on their website: ‘Home to England’s Finest Downland Golf Course’ also with feedback from peers who have also claimed this to be a Top100 course in waiting.
Myself and my playing partner (a formidable adversary in our society match play competition) arrived on a stormy February morning to drizzle and 40mph winds, we were preparing for the worst as far as weather was concerned. The reception given to us by the team was 1st class, with Jamie in the pro-shop and John the starter ensuring that we knew the course nuisances and local rules and this gave us a great feeling towards the ambiance of the club.
We started our round on the 10th hole which is a lovely Par 4 (that was playing into the teeth of the gales) which made a 428y hole seem about 600 yards! But straight away we noticed the real features of this course, the green complexes and undulations make this a very enjoyable place to play.
The back 9 (which we played as our front 9) was straightforward, a nice procession of holes all seeming to play in a different direction and none on-top of the other which gives a real feeling of space. The course itself wraps around a farm (which forms OB on several holes) and provides another nice feature. The main highlight on the back 9 (our front) was the 17th Hole. You work your way up to the Tee via the Par 3, 16th hole, and when you reach the tee box, you are greeted with a lovely vista of the London skyline and laid out down the hill back towards the clubhouse is the Par 5 548 yard 17th. The main feature of this hole, is the bunkering. Traps lurking to catch any club selection off the tee with then more strategic bunkers placed short and surrounding the green. A real treat of a hole. The 18th hole then brings you to a nice gentle conclusion in front of the magnificent clubhouse.
For us, the real highlight of the course is the front 9. The 2 par 3’s are truly beautiful holes (4th & 7th). Some beautiful Par 4’s which again work away from the clubhouse and wrap around the farm with great framing and contouring. A gem of a Par 5 (8th) that starts fairly straight and the opens up to a lovely downhill approach. The show stopper is the short Par 4 9th hole which is a true risk and reward hole. Daunting bunkers off the tee and a well protected green await.
Once your round is completed then head into the grand clubhouse. There is a real bygone feel to the locker room and plenty of space for players to unwind after a round. A special mention also to the clubs homemade flapjacks!
Another takeaway would be that the Front 9 and back 9 should be reversed as the format we played the course seemed to suit it more, with the 8th and 9th being better finishing holes than that of the 17th and 18th. The 18th is a great hole to bring you to the front of the clubhouse, but the drama of the 9th cant be underestimated.
In summary, both myself and my playing partner felt that Effingham has done enough to secure a birth in the Top100 England rankings moving forwards, it has all the attributes needed with maybe just some minor detailing required to bunkers and finesse around the tee boxes (but we appreciate this was a stormy February) overall, a very well-presented club with lots to offer.
I haven’t played all the ‘Downland’ courses in England, but I feel their website could be onto something!
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There is plenty to enjoy at Effingham. As has been mentioned, the bunkering is excellent - I visited 6 or 7 of them in the round just to sample :). Quite a few back to front/sideslope greens made 2 putting a real challenge in places. Par 3s would be the highlight, 4, 7 and 13 stand out. There is a great feeling of seclusion and spaciousness and some tangly rough to be visited.
However, it doesn’t quite make top 100 England for me. Tee markers were laid out 20 yards apart and with some wide fairways many times felt like hitting another drive with little strategic thought. Some holes felt too simple (2nd, 8th) with neither drive nor second shot feeling particularly exciting or challenging. A few fairways had some quite bare lies which was surprising given recent rain and lush grass around.
The inclusion of Effingham in Golf World Magazine’s recent “Top 100 golf courses of England” peaked my interest in this Surrey downland course located just outside the London Orbital.
If ever there was an example of bunkering on a golf course that elevated the layout from being good to excellent Effingham must surely be it. This is almost exclusively thanks to the work of leading golf architecture firm, Mackenzie & Ebert, who recently enhanced this classic Harry Colt course with truly spectacular results.
Played over chalky downland terrain on a large property the bunkering brings the course to life; both on drives and approach shots. It’s a long time since I’ve been as impressed with a bunker scheme on a golf course as I was at Effingham when I visited in early June 2019.
The clean and simple, though rarely straight, outlines to the hazards have a real sharpness to them which are visually impressive, especially with the near-white sand making them really stand out. They are also extremely well placed strategically from the tee and merge into the wonderful green complexes exceptionally well.
The playing corridors are generous at Effingham with long wispy grass – which was quite playable from on my visit – acting as a buffer before you may reach the established woodland.
The front-nine loops around arable land in a huge circle. There is a real sensation of space and isolation as we tread the opening loop. It’s possible to get off to a fast start with a par-five opener followed by two short par-fours but from there on you must play some good golf if you wish to make a score. The back-nine is a little more condensed but is still golf on a big scale although the firm turf ensures it never becomes a slog.
One of the things I enjoyed here was that on many drives you had a perception of where you were going but you couldn’t always see where your ball ended up. This is due to the rising and falling downland where Colt has routed the course to leave the golfer with a sense of anticipation.
The entire consistency of the bunkering, and the course itself for that matter, is one of Effingham’s trump cards. Because of this selecting any stand-out holes is not easy but likewise there are no poor holes either…
I’m sure this is a course we will hear a lot more about over the coming years... And with fantastic views of London and the Chilterns there is very little to dislike at this true Surrey gem.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.